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Although little is known about the earliest days of Dunfermline, its name means «fortress by the crooked stream», suggesting that it was the site of an early fortified settlement. It was about 1065 when Malcolm III, known as Malcolm Canmore, chose the area as the site for his new royal residence. His second wife, Queen Margaret, was determined to set up a religious community in Dunfermline, under the aegis of the Church of Rome. She arranged for the building of a new church on top of the much older Culdee Church, the site of the nave of the present Abbey. In 1093, three days after the death of her husband, the ailing Queen Margaret died at Edinburgh Castle, and was buried in her own church in Dunfermline. Due to her faith and strong links with the Church in Rome, she was eventually canonised in 1250.

Thus Dunfermline was at the centre of court and monastic life in Scotland for 500 years. The royal palace - dating from the 13th century - abbey and shrine to St. Margaret were renowned throughout Europe, and the fully restored 14th - 16th century Abbot House now relates the history of the house and town. The ruins of the palace seen today date from the 16th century; this grand building was started by James V and completed by James VI.

The palace in its various guises was well used by royalty - David II and James I of Scotland were born there, as were Charles I of Britain and his sister Elizabeth. However, with the Union of the Crowns between Scotland and England in 1603, James VI and his court moved to London and, despite visits by Charles I, the palace fell into ruin.

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